Thyagaraja is one of the three musician
s who comprise the "Trinity" of Carnatic music
, the other two being Muthuswami Dikshitar
and Shyama Shastri
. Thyagaraja composed over 800 kirthana
s) in his lifetime, most of them devoted to Lord Rama
, as Thyagaraja was a great Rambhakti (devotee of Rama). Most of these were written in his mother tongue of Telegu
, but he also composed a few in Sanskrit
, including his magnum opus
, which consists of the 108 names of Rama.
Thyagaraja was born in Tiruvayyaru, near Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, on May 4, 1767. His parents were Smarta Telegu Brahmins; his ancestors had moved to Tamil Nadu in the early 1600s, but had kept the Telegu language within the house. Thyagaraja's parents were great Rambhaktis themselves and instilled this same bhakti in their son. Thyagaraja composed his first song at age 13, Namo Namo Raghavaya, a devotional song for (guess!) Lord Rama. At this point, his parents put him under the tutelage of Sonthi Venkataramanayya.
When Thyagaraja turned 18, he married a girl named Parvati who died when he was 23, at which point he married Kamalamba, her sister. With this wife he had a daughter, but her son remained childless, so there are no descendants of Thyagaraja today.
Thyagaraja revolutionized Carnatic music, and it is belittling to pinpoint and single song or set of songs as his "main" contribution; however, his Pancharatna Keerthanas (five jewel songs) are generally recognized to be his most complex songs, lyrically and melodically. In addition, Thyagaraja wrote two operas, Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam and Nauka Charitram, both in Telegu.
Towards the end of his life, Thyagaraja took sanyasa (self-imposed solitary exile for the purpose of meditation and prayer). On the 6th of January, 1847, Thyagaraja was supposedly absorbed into the Godhead and his mortal life was ended.